LOVES PARK, ILL. - Controls maker Barber-Colman Co. is joining with its sister company, Fox-boro Co., to introduce Windows-based, plantwide control software, beginning this fall. With the collaboration, Barber-Colman will enter the market for ``supervisory software,'' so named because it takes electronic data gathered at individual plastics machines and links it to broader computer systems used by managers. It is a substantial new market for Barber-Colman, which currently makes controllers, sensors and actuators.
Company officials touted a ``sensors to boardroom'' product range during a June 13 press briefing at the Industrial Instru-ments Division in Loves Park. They also showed off a new flexible automated work cell to make controllers.
``The biggest market opportunity in the industrial marketplace is in information technology,'' said Jeff Beal, intelligent automation business development manager.
That sector is more than five times larger than the controls sector, and four times bigger than sensors/actuators, according to the company.
The move into supervisory software is part of a two-pronged strategy. Barber-Colman, already known in plastics for its Maco machinery controllers, also will expand into lower-end controllers, used in markets such as packaging and ceramics, through its previously announced, April 29 acquisition of Italian temperature controller firm Ero Electronic SpA of Milan.
John Simontacchi, division vice president and general manager, said Barber-Colman is in a unique position of strength. Its parent, Siebe plc of Windsor, England, bought Barber-Colman in 1987. Three years later, Siebe acquired Foxboro Co., based in Foxboro, Mass. Now the two Siebe units are working together.
Foxboro is a leader in information systems based on Windows NT, which Beal said is gaining favor over DOS-based systems.
``NT is viewed as the juggernaut that's moving through the manufacturing environment,'' he said.
At the same time, Barber-Colman is pushing controllers that are easy to use and can be linked with other Barber-Colman products.
``We're looking to take connectivity across all our product lines,'' Simontacchi said.
Control products generate nearly three-fourths of Siebe's $4 billion in sales. Siebe employs 36,500 worldwide.
In Loves Park and Foxboro, engineers now are designing the visual part of the program, known in computer lingo as the man/machine interface. Beal said the company wants to customize the interface for each of the major types of plastics processing - injection molding, blow molding and extrusion.
Barber-Colman is looking for beta test sites, Beal said.
Meanwhile, Barber-Colman has invested more than $1 million in a manufacturing cell, housed in a separate room at the 300-employee Industrial Instruments Divi-sion.
Orders are entered on a computer, which selects the model number of circuit board to build and prints out a bar code, read by each station. A small carrier pallet moves through the line. The first machine puts solder points on the board. Then a high-speed machine picks components and places them on the board - for any of several hundred variations, depending on the order.
An oven then cures the solder. The circuit board moves to an assembly station. This part of the operation is not fully automated, but the computer does swing the correct parts around to the operator, and a light beam shows where they should be installed. The board next goes through a wave soldering machine, then to a visual inspection area. Workers then assemble the finished controller, which is tested in an oven for one or two days to simulate harsh factory conditions.
The cell began production in October. Quality has been im-proved, and cycle time cut from 25 days to three days, said Tom Ross, industrial engineering manager. The cell can make 50 controllers a shift.